How Switching Careers Helped Me Grow Personally and Professionally

Having spent more than 20 years in a technical support role on the mainframe, Marius Otto made a career change when he moved into a technical pre-sales role for IBM and have been adjusting ever since. In today’s blog, Marius shares his IBM Global Sales School experience and how this has helped him grow both personally and professionally.

By Marius Otto

Four years ago, I made a career change – from Support to Sales. Switching from two very different worlds, it was hard for me to do a paradigm shift at the start. Focusing on a specific area of mainframe software for so many years, I found myself suddenly needing to know a little bit about everything. I had to develop a “Jack of all Trades, Master of SOME” skillset for my new role. I felt flooded with so much technical content that when I was told I had to complete the IBM Global Sales School (GSS) mandatory training I thought to myself: I don’t need this and I don’t want this!!!

Photo Courtesy – Marius otto

Listening to war stories of colleagues that have already completed this training, I knew this was going to take a lot of extra work and time-out from my already tasking day-to-day job. So it was with apprehension that I showed up to our first face-to-face training week. Sitting in class with so many strangers from across Middle East and Africa (MEA) we were told that we’ll be taught some principles, then go into practice sales calls with a sales advisor with our classmates sitting in to evaluate. This prospect was really unsettling.

But, wow! Pleasant was my surprise when I went through my first few calls and I realized I am not the only attendee feeling this way and the rest were even more apprehensive of this than I was. We felt exposed and vulnerable in front of our fellow GSS stream mates and that had a completely unexpected positive spinoff – we all shared the same feelings of discomfort and worries that we’re busy ridiculing ourselves in front of people you don’t know from a bar of soap. Guess what? When people face a common adversary, they tend to stick together. We very quickly started to form strong bonds with colleagues we’ve just met, so much so that some of us even struck up lasting friendships from this first encounter. We started to explore each other’s backgrounds, cultural differences and really started to learn from each other. Truly, something marvelous happens when humans connect.

Besides all the excellent sales skills I’ve learned over the course of GSS, such as negotiating skills, really trying to understand a client’s compelling reason to act and more importantly for me the principle of WAIT, or constantly asking myself ‘WHY AM I TALKING’. I grew in my ability to ask more questions and explore the client’s thoughts more thoroughly. This was a big departure from how I started, where I tended to flood the client with a solution instead of fully trying to understand their requirements.

Going through the Sales training made me grow not only in a professional capacity but also personally. The content is aimed at exploring so many different aspects of successful client relationships, coupled with the opportunity to practice this in a safe, nurturing environment, led to me walking away from this training not only with some good sales tools but also a few new found friends! This is what makes us proud IBMers.


Marius is currently a z Software Client Architect in IBM South Africa.

Do you see yourself as an individual with elements of creativity and passion to contribute to creating meaningful solutions to most of the world’s greatest challenges? Why not take some time to check out our career opportunities.

Connect with us on Facebook at IBM MEA Talent and follow us on Twitter @IBMJobsMEA to find out more about available opportunities in the Middle East and Africa.

Discover what you can do at IBM.

One thought

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.